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What’s in the Box? Curious Mutton Bone Toys

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Edward Lovett collection rediscovered behind-the-scenes at Royal Pavilion & Museums

Our newest objects entered into our “What’s in the Box?” display at Hove Museum come from Collections Assistant Joy Whittam. When cataloguing the toy collection in the museum stores Joy came across a dusty box which contained some intriguing figures.

Child's doll made from a mutton bone, Surrey from Edward Lovett collection

Child’s doll made from a mutton bone, Surrey from Edward Lovett collection

The figures appeared to be children’s toys; dolls and animal models made from everyday items including pine cones and waste meal bones. These models were reminiscent of the hand made toys made during the second world war.

After scouring the records Joy discovered they had been part of the collection of the well known folklore collector Edward Lovett (1852-1933).

A collection of Lovett objects on temporary display at Hove Museum

Lovett was an Edwardian gentleman who lived in Croydon and had a pretty ordinary career for a man for his class with a good city job in a London bank. However, outside of his day job, he led an extraordinary life full of intrigue.

He was part of the Folklore Society and became recognised as a national authority on folklore in 1905. Lovett was fascinated by magical beliefs and made it his mission to research and understand why these beliefs had persisted in modern day society. He spent his evenings walking through the slums of London, visiting villages in Sussex and Surrey buying amulets, lucky charms and objects used in children’s games. Over the years his collection grew significantly and can be found in museums across the country including the Wellcome Collection, Pitts Rivers and Horniman museums.

Edward Lovett’s collection is not only significant in relation to the persistence of magical belief in society; by collecting these objects, Edward Lovett preserved a significant part of social history that could have been lost forever. Collectors during this era largely ignored the day-to-day lives of the poorest people, they were more interested in preserving the most elegant toys of the wealthy middle classes.

“This collection is extremely revealing, the fact that children made toys out of mutton bones, wish bones and even old shoes is very poignant. It shows us how much children need to play and they will find a way even in the most desperate of circumstances” says Joy.

Edwardian giraffe novelty from Edward Lovett collection

You can see a selection of the collection in our What’s in the Box display at Hove Museum.

Find out More

  • Hear all about Edward Lovett at Joy’s Bite Size talk on the life of Lovett and discover more about these fascinating toys.

      Bite-size at Hove Museum: Edward Lovett

      Friday 5 July, 1:30-2pm

      Hove Museum & Art Gallery

Follow the What’s in the Box category on our blog to see what new items have come out from our stores.

If you visit Hove Museum in Church Road, Hove, look out for our What’s in the Box? display.